Located just across the river from Quebec, this bilingual city was our first preview of the French Canadian culture that awaited us further down the road. We caught a ride-share with some students from the bustling big city lights of Toronto to the slightly more reserved and historic city of Ottawa. Filled with stately government buildings, leafy boulevards, pretty canals and plenty of parks, statues and monuments, Ottawa is a very attractive city that we were happy to wander through for a while. Although it was October, the weather was unseasonably warm and we enjoyed the sunshine as we walked all over the city.
Seeing How Canada is Run at Parliament Hill
Ottawa is the capital of Canada and all of the big federal decisions take place right here at Parliament Hill in these Gothic Revival beautiful buildings. One of our favourite experiences in Ottawa was visiting the Parliament Buildings.
There are guided tours which will take you through the buildings to see the House of Commons, the Senate and the Library of Parliament. This is one of the quintessential sights in Ottawa so we made sure that we didn’t miss it.
Once you are in the Parliament Buildings, be sure to take the elevator up to the Peace Tower. Up here you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city! We found that it was a great place to get our bearings and see the entire city at a glance.
While we were in Ottawa we really enjoyed the nightlife of the city. Connor’s Gaelic Pub on Bank Street kept drawing us back again with its unpretentious atmosphere, friendly bar staff and good selection of drinks. We also went to a live Comedy Show in the Little Italy area of the city. When it comes to enjoy a great night out and meeting new people, Ottawa seems to always have something fun going on.
Go Back in Time at the Museum of Civilization
One of the most popular attractions in Ottawa is the Museum of Civilization, and if you are travelling through the city I would definitely recommend it. It is one of the best museums in Canada and as you walk through it you will see the entire story of Canada from Aboriginals migrating across the Bering Strait to Viking Settlements to British and French Colonies. There is even a small prairie town complete with a grain elevator totally recreated within the museum. The main hall with its Salish totem poles is truly impressive and the adjoining children’s museum is really fun and interactive.
Strolling Along the Rideau Canal
Lee and I spent several hours of our time in Ottawa simply walking alongside the Rideau Canal. This historic scenic waterway connects the towns of Kingston and Ottawa and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you wanted to, you could hop on a boat and cruise slowly down the canal to Merrickville, Smiths Falls, Battersea, Westport, Newboro and many other small and picturesque waterside villages. If you are visiting Ottawa in the winter, an 8km section of the canal within the city of Ottawa is transformed into the longer outdoor skating rink in the world!
Biting into A Warm Beaver Tail at Byward Market
Another must-see attraction in Ottawa is the Byward Market, where you will find dozens of stalls selling everything from crafts to clothing to jewelry. On a busy day there is sure to be live music and many people strolling through the marketplace. Byward Market is also the best place in Ottawa to try eating your very first Beaver Tail.
Don’t worry; it’s not as weird as it sounds. This Canadian delicacy is not actually the tail of a beaver, but a flat fried dough pastry which is deep fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It gets its name from its shape; flat and round like the oar of a canoe.A number of locations throughout Canada claim to be the birthplace of the Beaver Tail, but this treat seems to be specific to Ottawa.
Moving into French Canada
After Ottawa we continued further east into Quebec, where we were suddenly immersed in the totally different culture of French-speaking Canada. Stay tuned to find out how we managed the language barrier and savoured the joie de vivre of Montreal.